Could just a few minutes of intense exercise three times a week reduce teens’ risk of potential heart problems?
That’s the suggestion of a small study by British researchers.
“We know that activity levels drop significantly as children reach adolescence, and so far attempts to increase this to an hour a day have proved fruitless. This study indicates that, providing the intensity is high, health benefits are achievable with just 8 to 10 minutes of exercise,” research team leader Alan Barker, from the University of Exeter, said in a university news release.
The researchers had seven boys and six girls, ages 13 and 14, do six high-intensity workouts over two weeks. The teens did this by cycling at high speed for one minute, followed by a 75-second break. They started by repeating this pattern eight times during each exercise session. By the end of the second week, the teens had worked up to 10 one-minute bursts of activity a session, the study authors said.
The training program improved the teens’ blood vessel function and their brain’s ability to control their heart rate, both considered to be important markers of heart health, the investigators explained.
“We may have more success in encouraging teenagers to dedicate a shorter time to improving their health by performing high-intensity exercise. This is an important finding, but more work is needed to inform existing physical activity guidelines for health,” study lead author Bert Bond, from the University of Exeter, said in the news release.
“The next step is to confirm these results on more participants, especially groups who are at greater risk of future cardiovascular disease, and to address the impact of longer high-intensity interventions,” Bond added.
The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about children and exercise.